Number crunching

Published 31 Oct 2017

With Ghirmay Ghebreslassie defending his New York City Marathon title on Sunday we bring you the Eritrean and NN Running Team athlete’s burgeoning career and life in numbers.


The number of times Ghirmay has dipped below 60 minutes for the half-marathon distance. Surprisingly, given his outstanding marathon pedigree has yet to achieve the feat, although he come close in Padeborn in 2013 when winning in 60:09. The performance was all the more remarkable because the diminutive Eritrean was just 17 at the time and it came only six days after finishing seventh in the U20 race at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz!


The total number of Marathon Major successes by an Eritrean following Ghirmay’s historic victory at the 2016 New York City Marathon. His success in the “Big Apple” in a slick time of 2:07:51 was a huge moment of celebration for both the country and the race winner.
“For me, this was a championship, like the World Championships or Olympics,” said Ghirmay in the wake of his success. “It is very important to be the first Eritrean to win in New York.”


The time in the morning that Ghirmay rose ahead of the 2015 World Championship marathon after enduring a difficult night’s sleep. The then teenager had given an interview to an Eritrean radio station saying he hoped to win gold. However, that night with the interview fresh in his mind the eventual world champion struggled to nod off.

The position Ghirmay finished on his first completed marathon in Chicago after starting the race a pacemaker. In the 2014 edition, the Eritrean was asked to run through to 25km but he felt so good he decided to finish in 2:09:08 –  just under five minutes down on his now NN Running team-mate Eliud Kipchoge – the race winner that day.


The shirt number worn by Real Madrid and Portugal superstar footballer Cristiano Ronaldo – and the player who inspired Ghirmay to support Premier League football giants Man Utd. It was during the striker’s time playing for the Red Devils, which acted as the catalyst for his long-held passion for the English club.


The age in which Ghirmay made his international debut, finishing ninth – behind reigning World 5000m champion Muktar Edris of Ethiopia – in the U20 race at the 2012 African Cross Country Championships in Cape Town.


The age at which Ghirmay secured victory in Beijing 2015 to make history as the youngest ever World Championships marathon gold medallist. Only rated a top ten prospect beforehand, the teenager stunned the field to finish powerfully in only his third completed marathon. After finishing sixth in Chicago – when entered as a pacemaker – his only other race over the 42.2km distance saw him finish second in Hamburg (2:07:47) earlier in 2015.


The temperature in celsius Ghirmay faced when winning the 2015 Beijing World Championships marathon. He covered the distance that day in 2:12:28 – some 40 seconds clear of silver medallist Yemane Adhane of Ethiopia – although the soaring mercury did not faze him.
“The weather was nice for me,” he said. “Since childhood I grew up in similar conditions.”


The approximate population size of the East African country which is developing into a rising force on the international running stage. The nation’s first true athletics superstar was five-time World Half-Marathon champion and 2004 Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist Zersenay Tadese. However, Ghebreslassie and a younger generation of runners are ensuring Eritrea punches well above its weight, particularly compared to its powerful neighbour Ethiopia, which boasts the might of a population of more than 100m people.